Playbill Steel Pier


Playbill Steel Pier

Among my many interests are theater and — no surprise here! — gambling. Little did I think my two pastimes would coincide until I saw the umpteenth rerun of “Guys and Dolls” on Turner Classic Movies the other night.

Watching the “Crap Shooters Ballet” as Frank Sinatra crooned “Luck Be A Lady Tonight” in the background made me think about other Broadway musicals that feature gambling.

Here are some that come to mind. Can you think of others?

“Bell Are Ringing” — In the song “It’s a Simple Little System,” the last names of classical music composers are used as codes for racetracks around the country. In case the police are listening in, bettors call into a telephone answering service using, for example, Puccini for Pimlico and Beethoven for Belmont Park.

“Disaster” — A spoof of disaster movies (think “Airport,” “Towering Inferno” and “The Poseidon Adventure”), this musical features a slot machine-addicted nun who sings “Never Can Say Goodbye” while grabbing the machine like a life preserver on a sinking ship — which it is! No original score here, but a collection of 1970s hits selected to “illustrate” the many stock characters (and predicaments) we found ourselves watching when this genre was popular.

“Fiorello” — Loosely based on the life of former New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, the show features “Politics and Poker,” a song as timely today as it was when the show opened in 1959. A sampling of the lyrics: “We gotta pick a candidate this year. Shuffle up the cards and find the joker.”

“Funny Girl” — “Ziegfeld Follies” star Fanny Brice marries gambler Nick Arnstein and, by Act II, loses the money she invested in Arnstein’s failed casino.

“Honeymoon In Vegas” — Jack and girlfriend Betsy elope to Las Vegas. Betsy catches the attention of wealthy gambler Tommy Korman, who invites Jack to a private poker game where he beats Jack’s straight flush with a royal flush. To settle the $58,000 gambling debt, Jack agrees to let Tommy spend the rest of the weekend with Betsy. You’ll have to see the show — or the film that inspired it — to learn the conclusion.

“Spamalot” — Perhaps modeled after the Excalibur Hotel and Casino, Camelot is portrayed as a deliberately anachronistic Vegas-esque city with showgirls, flashing lights and oversized dice.

“Steel Pier” — Set in 1933 Atlantic City, the plot revolves around an aging celebrity, a stunt pilot and a dance marathon at Steel Pier.

Recreational gambler Darryl D. McEwen, a former professional journalist, is president of his own consulting firm that manages several small national and international trade associations, and provides public relations and fundraising services for a number of charitable organizations. Have a comment on this or a question specifically related to an Atlantic City casino, players club or other promotion? Email Darryl at and he’ll try to respond to you personally. Your question, without your name, may appear in a future column.

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